Setting the Stage for Success
Your success will hinge on your ability to create adoption across the board from both customers and internal stakeholders. The introduction of a new methodology might require some initial leg work and handholding.
Those used to storing information locally and having to “fight their corner” in meetings will begin to see the value of this centralized feedback loop as an asset. Data-centric decisions that you can back up with real customer comments work in unison to justify and define product ideation actions.
Feedback from customers is usually plentiful but is typically from those having issues with your product. When looking to overcome feedback from the angriest customers and make those who are generally happy want to also participate you should:
Nothing will drive people away quicker than providing areas for feedback and turning it into a ghost ship with no replies or activity.
Mention them when you move forward with a new feature
Hugely powerful. To call them out as fundamental to the product ideation and evolution shows how much you value their input.
Don’t ignore bad ideas - address them
Explaining why an idea is not considered is important. Explain why it isn’t something the organization is considering. Perhaps the idea is not completely bad, but incomplete. This is where merging feedback into categories or themes can be helpful in drawing up a bigger picture.
Involve them in the beta or early demo of the feature
It’s one thing to mention them with a new feature, it’s another to ask them to use, play, break, love, loathe and stress test your feature. Ask for honest (but constructive) feedback, and always ensure any negative feedback is met in a positive light. Your customers will use your feature in ways you didn’t think about – embrace that hugely valuable (and free) testing group.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Don’t make a customer second guess what’s going on. Overpromising and under delivering is extremely damaging especially when you want to build deep and meaningful relationships with your customers. How you treat your customers is crucial to your brand experience.
Don’t guarantee anything before it’s 100% signed off
It’s tempting when chasing customer feedback to make promises to get them engaged. Be clear that feedback is being listened to, but you aren’t guaranteeing it will make the product ideation roadmap or become a product feature.
Some organizations shy away from doing this as it feels disheartening and negative. They shouldn’t. The tone and words you use can set expectation accordingly and still get fantastic feedback.
Your public position is to always be amazed by how great your customers are. Thank them for how much time they take offering feedback. Make sure they know how the much company values their time and effort. It’s a shame you can’t implement every idea but you’re always listening and appreciate any contribution.
With internal success measures, make sure you follow up on feedback visibly so that your stakeholders will want to share their ideas. No one likes or appreciates their feedback vanishing into a black hole never to be heard of or seen again.
Additional Tips For Great Product Feedback
Sit in other departmental team meetings
You might initially get some pushback, but communicate that you’re sitting in the meeting as a silent observer to learn more about the team. It will help broaden your understanding of the types of opportunities, pressures and challenges they are working on.
Don’t use results to beat internal stakeholders
Work toward an outcome where the results are self evident. You are not looking to use your collated feedback to shutdown or “beat” the view of any individual or team. This might seem self evident, but misunderstandings are a part of daily life at work. Present feedback clearly, fairly, and with easily understandable routes back to the original customer comments.
Capture the story
Note all the key moments along the way and tell the story of the journey. This can be used internally for team morale and a reflection of the hard work they’ve done. It can also show customers what they have contributed to. You might use it as marketing material to show your leads, customers, and competitors how you build fantastic products that people want and need.
It can also help you optimise and refine your product ideation roadmap, learning where things worked well or where things took too long. As you grow, this developmental learning can make things happen more effectively. It could also be a great onboarding material for your HR team.
How to Balance Asking for Feedback
with Limited Product Team Output
Product Feedback and Ideation can be a way to engage and focus on a specific topic. This can have its own benefits and can help prioritize when resources are insufficient.
Customers are still an integral part of the process and involved in product decisions but you can be strategic in how you keep them engaged during lull periods.
Setting this up often takes the form of an invite to a private room (initially).
Look for customers who share the following traits:
- Have a strong interest in that particular product
- Have contributed constructively in previous discussions
- Will be honest with feedback (both good and bad) and are clear in communication
- Closely resemble your user personas
The aim is to filter the signal from the noise, and by carefully selecting your customer feedback group you will be able to ensure the feedback is concise and valuable.
How to Breakout Ideas from Bugs and Issues
Often, ideas and issues are quite closely related and it’s easy for both internal stakeholders and customers to blur the lines. Product ideation relies on both to be effective. In broad terms ideas are innovation shifts that move the product significantly forward (think Version 1, Version 2, etc), or even generate new products that can be created in parallel.
Issues tend to be problems with the current version of the problem that prevent it from serving its purpose as effectively as it could be (think Version 1.1, Version 1.2, etc).
The following questions are important to ask when considering how to deal with the feedback:
- Is the idea something that already exists within your product?
- Is the issue around usability?
- Is there a lack of product knowledge or operational instruction?
- Is the idea a bug that requires addressing?
- Is there a viable workaround?
- Is there an opportunity to do something better?
- Is the idea an actual new idea or the seed to something broader? This might bring with it an opportunity to innovate.
Ensure that as you decide which is which, you are bringing in the right internal stakeholders and making the line of communication clear.
It’s also important to capture the issues and the solution into an easy to access knowledge hub for your community for both internal stakeholders and customers alike. This shows you have listened, you have taken appropriate action, and you’re either working on a solution or the great idea, or that it has been resolved.
The tertiary benefit is one of time saving and lowering of repetitive feedback. Customers know where to look to see if their issue or idea is being addressed, and internal stakeholders know where the knowledge is stored.
Transparency, visibility and access are three core components to building a constructive product feedback loop with all of your stakeholders. Product development and design thrives with processes involving direct and real-time feedback from customers.
Online communities remain one of the simplest and most accessible ways to tap into your customers and peer’s collective wisdom into a single place. When combined with the built-in processes to submit ideas, share feedback, focus conversations and funnel the results, this empowers a focused, effective product management roadmap.
For more great content on how you can build a strong product feedback community, I highly recommend the following free resources:
- For executives: Why Product Leaders Should Care About Community - Webinar
- For product teams: How to Build a Product Community From Scratch - Webinar
- For product managers: The Complete eBook: Managing Product Feedback at Scale